Monday, 30 January 2012

The sea defence diaries 30/01/12 - the coins are now turning up

The top two photographs above were taken during the Christmas period and show the piling around the square head in position. The two photographs below were taken this morning around 09:45 am 30/01/12 and show how deep the piling is being driven in around the square head. Equally as interesting are the layers of mud, sand and clay that are being dug up and the historic evidence it contains. When the work is completed I am sure there will be many finds to come as the tide washes through the spoil around the square head.
Before I took the photographs of the pile driving I ran my metal detector over an area I selected a few weeks ago behind the Droit House. The area is full of iron work from the wreck of the Jetty entrance making it very difficult to metal detect effectively, but I did manage to pick up a few coins. I have selected the older ones and as you can see the sand and sea outside the harbour wall has a terrible effect on them. The top line are George III halfpennies and one George III farthing, the second line are Victorian bun head pennies and the third bottom line are two Victorian halfpennies and two farthings. The oldest George III coin is dated 1799 and all were found close to the harbour wall around the area of the blocked up sluice.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The sea defence diaries (28/01/12) - I should have brought a bigger bucket.

This morning at day break (28/01/12) I targeted the back wall of Margate stone pier from below the lighthouse to the corner of the square head. It was a cold start and it didn't help sinking in a muddy hole up to my knees walking around the square head where it appears the piling has been completed. The area has been well and truly turned over and the ground is very soft as I found out.
The changing of the surface around the square head has now brought fresh debris to the surface where I did manage to find a few coins, but it still needs to wash down to a more solid base to search properly and more methodically .
Once past the square head the ground is more solid and the new piling is clearly visible. The old post 1953 piling has been removed and replaced leaving small piles of debris that have been washed through by the tide leaving plenty of historical evidence amongst the tangled mess of old fishing nets and metal. As customary on these occasions I pick up everything and I was soon to fill up my bucket with bits of brass and copper, plus lead fishing weights and pieces of lead work. All for further examination at a later date, I could have picked up more but the bucket I had was too small so I had to leave some things behind.
In a previous posting I mentioned the Balustrade that surrounded the lighthouse that was constructed in 1829 to replace the 1815 original and how I found two parts of a Baluster . Today I found another piece that know brings my tally to three.
After looking at a few prints I am now convinced that the Balustrade is dated 1815 and not 1829 as I originally thought, confirming that my finds are part of the original construction of the stone pier.
Rummaging through the stone debris from the 1953 storm it is noticeable that there are different types of stone used in the construction of the Stone Pier from the 1810 to 1815 period. Today I came across a large slab of granite, one of many that were used to cap the flat surface of the square head.

I could have done with the tide going out a bit further as there has been some iron concretion dug up but then I thought it can wait as there is so much to see and do at the moment. But I will within the next week give it a whack with a club hammer subject to the tide going out far enough of course.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The sea defence dig - beach glass

As the Margate sea defence work progress the changes will affect the tidal flow in and around the Harbour and around the Main Sands itself. This in turn will bring many shards and pieces of broken glass to the surface, each piece representing a time period of Margate's 277 years of seaside history. The more dominant pieces being the thick pieces of green aqua glass that are often found worn as smooth as pebbles almost anywhere in the Harbour and Main Sands precinct. Green aqua glass is typical Victorian and is made by adding iron oxide to molten glass in coal fired furnaces that enables a thicker glass bottle to be produced that can hold gaseous liquid like aerated mineral water in a coloured container that can disguise the sediment.
There are many designs of Victorian mineral water bottles, the most famous being the Codd patent mineral water bottle that had an internal marble stopper. That when filled, the pressure in the bottle will push the marble against the internal rubber washer creating a seal. The bottle could then be opened by pressing the marble down and breaking the seal.
These bottles were massed produced and evidence of discarded bottles can be found in every waterway system and coastal area in the country. Margate is no exception and being a Victorian seaside resort the evidence is overwhelming.
In the above photograph are broken necks of a Codd bottle and a marble stopper that show just how the bottle worked, representing some of the many pieces of Codd bottle found in the past few months.
In the bottom left of the photograph is an unusual find of a Lamont patent internal wooden stopper with a rubber seal that I found water logged in Margate Harbour. The principle being that the stopper would float inside the bottle when filled creating a seal.

The sea defence diaries - 26/01/12 a mystery find.

This is the latest find (26/01/12) found by Breheny contractors working on the Margate coastal defence project. Found behind the harbour wall , it certainly is a mystery.
My recent coverage of the sea defence works has certainly been attracting some interest if my blog stats are to be believed. Which is a good thing because it is times like these that someone somewhere may have that little bit of knowledge that can make all the difference and I find it is always best to share things with a wider audience

My theory and it could be totally wrong, is that when passengers boarded or alighted to and from steamers or even when cargoes like coal were being unloaded, or even when the small railway on the upper promenade was in use, there has to be some form of crowd control. I think that this may have been a post or part of a post to hook chains onto, that temporary blocked access. I could be wrong and any other idea will be gratefully received.

Anyway thanks again to Breheny contractors and the team at Margate for taking the time and trouble to save another piece of history.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The sea defence diaries 23/01/12 - another find

This piece of the railing sent in by Warren Martin the sea defences site engineer and was found late night on 23/01/12 by Paul Bailey an excavator driver working for Breheny the contractors working on the Margate coastal defence project.

The railing post originally came from the upper promenade around the second and third cant and is one of the original railing posts. From the photograph it confirms this passion Margate Pier and Harbour Company had for painting everything in red oxide that was made of metal and did not move.

The railing post has now been been set aside for exhibition, many thanks to Breheny contractors and the team at Margate.

Monday, 23 January 2012

They are Heraldic Dolphins not Sturgeons

When it comes to local history and historical indentification in Thanet there have been many inaccuracies and mistakes often reported and circulated. We all make mistakes and nobody is perfect and like everything else mistakes should be corrected and then just left at that. However, there are some who just keep getting it wrong and and even when presented with the facts still persist on producing the same inaccuracies.
Today I read part of a statement referring to the Margate coastal sea defence works released by TDC and its reads "The Sturgeon lights, which were positioned on top of the concrete pedestals along the sea wall have also been carefully removed".
The facts are that they are not Sturgeons lights but Heraldic Dolphins and this has been pointed out many times.
In fact anyone reading this can check the facts themselves. The photograph from google images to the left is taken of the same lamps along the Thames embankment and they are described as heraldic Dolphins, in fact every reference on google to the design refers to heraldic Dolphins.

So who is right and who is wrong ? - it doesn't take much working out.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Margate sea defence dig - animal bones a mystery solved

A few days ago I found an old butchered jaw bone of a pig in Margate Habour, even though it was old and had been in the harbour for many years, it was a find that really did not come as a surprise. This is because finding old animal bones and teeth in Margate Harbour is something I have always done since my bait digging days from the early 1970's. It was only a few months back that I was talking to someone on facebook who remembered finding animal teeth around the slipway area of Margate Harbour.
Putting on my historical cap I was able to tell him that the vicinity around the slipway was once where the old town drain spilled its contents into the harbour and that is most likely the origin of the animal bones and teeth in Margate Harbour.
This afternoon I have been reading up on articles on Horn Corner and Hazardous Row when I can across an article by Mick Twyman. It was one of the last he published before he died and it was a write up he did on Harzardous Row. In a paragraph about the Parade and the bridge that went over the town drain he mentions a wooden hut beside the bridge that can be seen in the copied print on the right of the bridge as you look at it. This wooden hut was in fact a butchers shop and it belonged to a George Penn who was reckoned to have thrown animal remains into the town drain from his shop.
I suppose the evidence is conclusive as in a vicinity where old animal bones and remains are found it just happens to be the outlet of where the old town drain spilled its contents into the harbour and there just happens to be an old butchers shop by that outlet (circa 1790's). Somehow I do not think we will need time team to work that one out.

Anyway I reckon with full confidence that more butchered animal remains will be found when the north wall fronting the Parade is dug and in the Harbour in general.

The sea defence works - recent finds (01/12)

I am now photographing some of my finds, found in the vicinity of the Margate sea defence works to keep as a record. So far I have not come across anything spectacular but I am building a collection of life at Margate Harbour.

This item I believe to be a marine engine part it is made of bronze and weighs over half a kilo found around the square head where pile driving and digging has taken place.

A butchered jaw bone of a pig, I originally thought it was a sheep's jaw but the tusk shape of some of the teeth made me think other otherwise. Found inside the harbour close to the wall where digging and pile driving has taken place.

Three bottlenecks of the string neck variety, the glass is thick and crudely made I reckon probably dates round 1810 to 1830's. These were found on the surface before the sea defence work started when I walked the entire area picking up everything of age.

Clay pipe stems, there is no shortage of them and they are found where any digging has taken place. However, there doesn't seem to be many pipe bowls at the moment.

I think this may be a hand made copper fastening found around the square head of the stone pier. It looks as if it has been subject to a great force that has bent it.

A sample of the hundreds of shards I have picked up over a wide area since the early autumn. Most are non descript and only show signs of age , a few do have part of the logos of paddle steamer companies.

The sea defence diaries a recent find ( 01/12)

I have received this photograph sent to me by Warren Martin who is the site engineer working for Breheny civil engineering who are the contractors for the Margate coastal sea defence works. It was found at the end of the Stone Pier and it is a iron wheel with spokes covered in concretion which will need further research.
It is good to see that the contractors are keeping an eye out for historical items while working to a busy schedule. I have also been informed that a number of complete old bottles were found when the north wall of the boating pool was demolished.
Warren has offered me the wheel to add to the collection of finds of which I will gratefully accept. Should anyone else find any item arising from the sea defence works please contact me and I will feature it on my blog.

I have been constantly going through the images in my collection of Margate Harbour and the area of where the sea defence works are taking place studying the detail. I have also been viewing all the Margate postcards up for sale on ebay something I can recommend as I find it easier than going to the library and cheaper than buying them. Below I have picked two out from my collection, one is of the colliers at low tide in Margate harbour that has lots of detail. The second is of the boating pool and shows the pipe that drains Tivoli Brookes that forms the inner core of the remaining boating pool wall.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The sea defence diaries 19/01/12 - goodbye to the Kings Steps

Today at 11:15 am the demolition of the King's Steps began, heralding the end of an era for those of us who remember the Jet Spray, diving off the king steps and fishing for flounders and eels. I expect the remains of the Kings Steps will become infill for the revetment.
Elsewhere the work by the clock tower known as the south wall is gathering pace as seen in the photograph. Behind the Harbour wall piling has been driven in, starting from the Droit House end and this afternoon they will be driving in piling behind the old sluice.

As for today's finds, the shard count has dropped dramatically due to tidal changes. I did find part of a jaw bone of a sheep and a unusual copper boat fastening, plus a few other bits of cooper boat nails and roves.
Due to neap tides, the tide will not be going out as far so I am going to leave it for a week to allow more of the silt in the harbour to loosen up.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Margate Sea Defences - the construction of the Stone Pier

In the Margate Historical Society archives there is a detailed account on the construction of the Stone Pier researched in detail by Mick Twyman and Alf Beeching . In a way this has become my hand book, and as Mick is no longer with us I am using both Alf's and Mick's research to put together as much physical evidence together to complement their research by taking photographs, recording my observations and obtaining samples of the stone pier during the sea defence works.
Mick's work is an historical account written for historians so I have listed some bullet points for those who are following the sea defence works as a matter of interest.

Towards the end of 1809 the go ahead to construct the stone pier was given working to a design by John Rennie. The bulk of the construction was to be built on timber piling driven 16 ft into the creek with stone resting on wooden sleepers. The construction was to be built in sections and infilled with chalk.

In late 1809 authorisations to acquire Whitby Stone, Fir,Elm, Beech timber piles and planks, along with Swedish hardwoods were given. Due to supplies problems with acquiring Whitby Stone , Purbeck Stone was also acquired.

Work begun in April 1810 with the first stone being laid with ceremony. In order to cut costs 2,000 tons of stone from the demolishion of the Reculver Church was shipped to Margate at a cost of one shilling a ton and used for the internal construction. Some of this stone was used to build the wall where the car park is today.

Due to a storm in 1811 part of the construction collapsed in a storm.

A decision in 1812 was made to put the remaining construction of the Pier and the running of the Harbour under the control of the new incorporated Margate Pier and Harbour Company.

The last remaining section of the Pier was completed in 1815 with the last 300 feet built entirely on wooden piles and sleepers.

In 1823 the Pier was lit by Gas Lamps .

In 1826 a sluice was opened and a granite pathway constructed as a cart road for for the removal of silt at sixpence a ton. The idea of the sluice was also to allow silt to drain out of the harbour as the tide went out, in fact the opposite happened with sand being pushed through from the outside in rough weather. Eventually the outside wall of the sluice was bricked up, however the entrance inside the harbour is still visible today.

In 1829 the lighthouse was replaced with a larger more ornate construction that collapsed in the storm of 1953 when the timber piling that supported the lighthouse and square head gave way.

There is also recorded damage to the stone pier in the gales of 1832, 1877 , 1897, 1953, 1971 and 1978. of which evidence hopefully will be uncovered as the under pinning of the stone pier is undertaken.

In the above diagram is the boundary of the where the Harbour ends and where the Main Sands begin. Which takes me back to 1981 when someone dumped a three piece suite off the square head. They dumped it at low tide and as the tide came in it became waterlogged and remained in situ much to the disgust of local fishermen who tied up alongside the square head. A request was put into Margate Pier and Harbour Company asking for it to be removed. This was refused because the MPHC said it is outside their boundary. So the fishermen had to remove it themselves, but they had the last laugh as they found out who it belonged to and dumped it in the front garden of the person who thoughtlessly dumped if off the square head.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The sea defence diaries 17/01/12 and a ramble

Today work started on pile driving the back wall of the stone pier from behind the droit house to the groyne that can be seen in the photograph. This should prove very interesting when the ground has settled as this area has a lot of history or should I say potential. Where the blue vehicle is parked the bricked up entrance to the sluice can be seen in the harbour wall and this should be interesting as the entrance to the sluice had a granite pathway. I expect the power of the equipment used for pile driving will cut through the pathway like a hot knife through butter. But it will be interesting to see the pathway that has laid buried since the mid nineteenth century. The pathway was used for carts that were used to transport the silt from the harbour as a cheap form of dredging.
Beneath the base of the back wall are layers of debris from the Jetty that have banked up from the many storms that have hit the outer wall of the harbour. Most of the debris has fused into concretion that has been very difficult to dig into and I am hoping the mechanical activity will loosen some of it up so I can have a good look.
To get to the site the pile driver and digger are having to go around the square head of the stone pier which has given them a small window to work in because of the tide. The area around the square head is soft sand, clay and shingle, the pile driver and digger are churning it all up as they go around the square head which is great. This has really loosened up the ground and the tide is moving things about and causing other areas inside the harbour to scour out.
Today, I carried on as from yesterday paying less attention to the stone work plus I left my metal detector and spade at home and concentrated on walking the area.
Years ago up until 1958 there was a coal trade at Margate when 50,000 tonnes of North East coal was brought into Margate Harbour by coasters annually for the gas works in King Street. As a result of the unloading there are many pieces of this North East coal that can be found within the harbour. I normally pick a bit of coal up for research and some for my neighbour who has a coal fire, while I was picking up a few bits of coal out of the freshly churned up clay I came across a bottle stopper and embossed on it was the words W B REID & CO NEWCASTLE . It may be wishful thinking but considering Margate had a sea going coal trade with the North East I do think this stopper may be connected.
Other finds today included a Tizer bottle stopper, a very worn copper coin, lead weights, clay pipe stems and shards of different descriptions. Scrap metal from maritime activity is abundant around the outside of the square head and I have been picking it up . The other day I weighed in 4 Kilo of mixed brass and copper like boat fittings etc., at Kent Metals which now goes towards paying my car park fees.

Casting my mind back to the mid 1980's when the area around the back wall was washed out for brief period in places I did make many finds and observations. I can remember finding a battered silver plated bowl with two handles engraved GRAND HOTEL . Other finds included world war two live ammunition the entire length of the wall, a grenade, plus many coins. The oldest coins being George III copper issues. There are masses of concretion around iron objects and there also water logged timbers from the jetty at the base of the wall and alongside the groyne. Some timber could also be boat remains as there are many copper boat nails of all sizes in the vicinity.

Back to the subject of the sea coal in Margate Harbour. During the unloading of coal there was spillage and coal ended up in the harbour. However, even though the coal was "lost" overboard it still belonged the ship as it is part of the cargo and had a legal owner. At the time the area within the Harbour belonged to Margate Pier and Harbour Company so the public couldn't take any coal out of the harbour. Any coal that ended up outside the MPHC boundaries and on the main sands was flotsam and it would have been difficult to prove the origin of the coal as it could have been jetsom so people would take it and there was very little anyone could do about it.
I do know that one person had the legal rights to the coal lost overboard in Margate Harbour but I cannot remember his name or what the arrangement was. All I know was that this person had the full consent of the MPHC and the owners of the Cargo to salvage coal.
Following a harbour revision order the rights of MPHC were transferred to TDC which was a long winded legal affair. So technically TDC do own the rights to the deposits of coal laid buried in Margate Harbour and anything salvaged within the Harbour boundaries which does sound quaint. Ramsgate Harbour has strict rules and people cannot do as they please and I suppose the same would apply to Margate Harbour as rules do not change because the tide is out. Anyway I do not think TDC will flex its muscles at Margate but it is something I feel should be taken into consideration if a valuable find is made.

Finally, everything I find that is historical or special interest I will give the TDC owned Margate Museum first option to add it to their collection if they so wish and this has already been established with the Museum.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The sea defence diaries 16/01/12

It has just been over a fortnight since my last dig and there seems to been very little digging done as most of the work taking place is pile driving.
Around the square head of Margate Stone Pier most of the movement has been tidal action washing out the spoil where some digging had taken place a few weeks back. The digging and pile driving has dislodged many pieces of the 1815 stone pier construction and pieces of 1829 lighthouse balustrade lost in the 1953 storm. The two pieces of the balustrade I have photographed match up with images of the 1829 lighthouse, one baluster shows clearly how the stone blocks slotted into each other using a mortise and tenon joint. I also took a photograph of a stone blocks that still had a piece of a stone tenon inside sealed with lead of which I took samples.
Not all pieces of stone can be identified and there are many fragments. Examining stone and brickwork can be interesting by looking for markings and I have in the past found child finger prints on brickwork dating from the Victorian era and earlier when child labour was used to manufacture bricks.
Stone work can carry many other type of markings including vandalism from decades past. I did come across a piece where someone had carved their name and dated their handy work. In the bottom photograph the name L.ELEY 1937 can be clearly seen.
Finally, some of the stone blocks in the sand are still well preserved and intact and it has occurred to me that perhaps they could be retrieved to repair other parts of the harbour arm that are not critical to the construction where excessive wear has taken place.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Margate sea defence works- something else to look out for.

When I first took up digging the Thanet coastline seriously I started finding items at a phenomenal rate and it was nothing to find a hundred items in one session. In the course of a year I would literally have thousands of items all neatly boxed, stored and recorded. Then one day when I had the lot all laid out it occurred to me that the vast majority of my finds were mostly generic and mostly massed produced. Some items could be over 150 years old and others like a box of farthings for example are what they are a box farthings each having very little detailed history or provenance.This soon led me to study local history and examine everything I found in detail to try to establish some history to any item I found.After a while I was able place some history to some items which gave the item some provenance. In time a pattern of finds would emerge that pinpointed areas that produced more items that would have some associated history. These areas turned out to be the site of the Marine Palace destroyed on the 29th November 1897, the Jarvis Jetty built 1824, and Margate Jetty and the Harbour area where the sea defence works are taking place today. I have mentioned bottles and their origins so the next item to be found in the sea defence works area has be coins. Even though coins are massed produced there is always some history behind some of them. They do not even have to be valuable as in the case of coins that have been personalized.

Many years ago working people did not own much and lived in chronic poverty due to ruthless exploitation. Owning very little, a gift to each other like a love token, talisman or souvenir etc., people would deface a low denomination coin with an inscription like a name or initials or just pierce the coin to act as medallion or charm. The coin I have scanned is a good example and very interesting, it is a copper Irish halfpenny dated 1822 made from Cornish copper and minted at Matthew Boulton’s Soho mint in Birmingham. Judging by the circulation wear it must have been pierced sometime in the 1840’s and looks like any other pierced coin. Closer examination shows the crown has been defaced and the date removed leaving only an Irish Harp. As the coin is struck in coin alignment and not in medal alignment the head of the monarch George IV hangs upside down. All done deliberately I suspect by someone who has a low regard for the British monarchy.

In the past I have come across many coins of a personalized nature, not all have been finds as some are a result of house clearances or auctions. However, I do view the Margate sea defence work an ideal opportunity to find some personalized coins with a Margate provenance.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Margate sea defence works - what to lookout for

Peoples habits never change and one habit in particular of drinking from a bottle and throwing it in Margate Harbour is something that I am sure that has gone on for two hundred years or more and will never change. There is also further evidence of this practice along the main sands by the abundance of the shards of green glass, worn smooth by the sea and sand accompanied by pieces of earthenware that can be found after every tide.
Between Margate harbour and the main sands there is this boundary where the shifting sands end and the silt of the harbour begins where everything that is found in the silted area has suffered less for the abrasive elements of the main sands. So there is every possibility that glass or earthenware bottles from the Victorian era will be found, complete or partially complete. The chances are the find will be something produced by the big three Margate mineral water companies of M J Harlow, Barret & Co or Reeve & Co or even a Cobbs brewery find. Then on the other hand the find could be something brought down from London on a paddle steamer of which there is plenty of evidence of that, judging by previous finds. However there is one prize or trophy I am hoping to find and that is something produced by a small independent trader or back street producer of mineral water, ginger beer and ale.
During the heyday of Victorian and Edwardian tourism and the high volume of visitor numbers there was every plenty of business opportunity to sell thirst quenching beverage on a hot summers day. Even with the iron grip of the big three mineral water companies on the market and the dominance of the Cobbs Margate brewery many small producers sprang up in Margate and Thanet in general with Ramsgate having the most. Even Chemists got in on the game and one chemist in particular, a Edwin Bing of Canterbury became so successful he gave up being a chemist producing mineral water in the back room of his shop and went onto to run a successful mineral water company. Not all of the small producers were as successful, even though they made money the pressure from the big three meant that many only lasted a few years which makes finding their bottles that more interesting. For example a George Kirby of 2 Church Street Margate was a baker and in 1897 produced his own mineral water to sell in his shop in earthenware bottles bearing his name , by 1900 he ceased production and concentrated purely on baking. Only fragments of George Kirby bottles are known to exist.
As we all well know, size does not mean anything and some of the earlier bottles produced by the Cobbs Margate brewery are really scarce which was more due to the strict accounting regime of the bottles by Cobbs than anything else , even a find of a broken remain of a early bottle would be a result.
At present due to the pace of the sea defence works it still is a case watching and waiting as things unfold. Since the end of the summer I have been picking my way through the harbour and main sands picking up anything of interest with a fanaticism only surpassed by the Taliban.
So what is the tally so far?
Taking into consideration earlier finds, the oldest glass find is about 1790's and I am gradually piecing together something that is representative of every decade from the 1790's which is one hell of a task. I also have a growing collection of bottle stoppers including a internal stopper from a 1880's bottle. So far it does not look impressive but once I have a mass of items it will look good.